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Open source projects

I read Matthew Thomas's article on the usability of freewares or open source projects:
http://mpt.phrasewise.com/2002/04/13

Perhaps not just interface design sucks.

There are advantages of open source projects , like they usually have innovative ideas, etc.. But there are also drawbacks. Usually, the voluntary programmers don't care too much about boring stuff, e.g., usability, documentation. Writing an open source web browser may be interesting, but making sure that the messages are consistent is not.

Sam Wong
Saturday, April 13, 2002

And I suppose that "professional" programmers all really enjoy doing documentation and installers?

A.Coward
Saturday, April 13, 2002

No, but "professional" programmers are paid to do such things as part of their job. If they didn't spend the effort to do some of the boring stuff now and then, they'd be out of a job. But volunteer programmers have no such incentive to touch the boring stuff.

Another Coward
Saturday, April 13, 2002

To an extent, this is true. I don't think this applies across the board though (as if anything ever does).

Also, note that I've found a heck of a lot of poorly documented commercial software too :) Windows never struck me as the most well documented thing.

And there are plenty of examples of both very good and very poor documentation on both sides. One can't say that one or the other is just 'bad'. One can only cite specific examples.

Mike Swieton
Saturday, April 13, 2002

Good documentation is expensive to produce.

If you go back far enough (as some of the folks on this board do), you'll probably remember the documentation for the original IBM PCs. Everyone who bought one got all sorts of stuff, right down to BIOS source code. 99.9% never needed that, but it was a boon for people who wanted to do serious programming on the platform.

Sadly, the market did not reward thorough documentation in proportion to the expense of producing it. Saving a few bucks on documentation lets you put the program on the market at a lower cost. And as long as consumers are willing to buy those lower cost programs, every vendor gets driven in the same direction.

There's also the fact that HTML Help is the single worst thing to ever happen to documentation in terms of usability, but I'll save that rant for another day.

Mike Gunderloy
Saturday, April 13, 2002

I guess the reasons for poor documentation or user interface design may be different. What causes poor usability or documentation in commercial software may also appear in open source software. But the lack of incentive  to do tedious tasks, like checking user interface consistency, doing documentation, writing user manual, is only for open source voluntary programmers.

Perhaps if Windows were open source, the documentation would be much worse. :)

Sam Wong
Saturday, April 13, 2002

Mike,

"There's also the fact that HTML Help is the single worst thing to ever happen to documentation in terms of usability, but I'll save that rant for another day. "

I'd love to hear that rant as I could use some good reasons why I shouldn't convert my current WinHelp project to HTML Help...

B
Saturday, April 13, 2002

Rather than clutter this topic, I got some of my HTML Help ranting out of the way at http://www.larkware.com/Articles/HTMLHelpConsideredHarmful.html .

Mike Gunderloy
Sunday, April 14, 2002

Buy Help And Manual (http://www.helpandmanual.com) and you don't need to care if you're writing HTML Help, Windows Help, PDFs, Rich Text, or whatever. It does it all for you.

Worth every cent.

Tim Sullivan
Sunday, April 14, 2002

I've been using the 2.97 version of ForeHelp since 1997 (I think) - I'm sure upgrading to a later version would take care of building HTML Help format out of my source, but I'm still not sure it's worth it. Noone's complaining :)

B
Monday, April 15, 2002

> Perhaps if Windows were open source, the documentation would be much worse. :)

Sure.. but the ultimate answer would still be publicly available.  If the open source code is valuable, the documentation will follow. O'reilly the book publisher comes to mind, in this regard.

Paul B.
Monday, April 15, 2002

Yeah, unlike what happens in the Windows world where docs are so good nobody would bother publishing a book on how to use Windows or Office or ...

Andres
Tuesday, April 16, 2002

JBoss actually has open source code, but you have to pay for the "Good" docs.

Interesting model

Adam
Thursday, April 18, 2002

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